A flat foot occurs when the normal arch is lost. It is often associated with the lower part of the legs being angled outwards.

Twenty percent of adults have flat feet, and nearly all babies are born without the normal adult arch. Most flat feet are “flexible,” cause no problems, and do not require treatment. Some of them are “rigid,” produce symptoms, and are best treated. Rigid flat feet that need treatment can be identified by symptoms and by examination of the foot.

Normal Foot Arch

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Flat feet are the mildest of many developmental (congenital) problems of the feet, the causes of which are not known. Lax joints (being “double jointed”) tend to run in families and produce flat feet along with unusual flexibility of other joints. Occasionally, they result from a ruptured ankle tendon, a foot injury, cerebral palsy , spina bifida , or muscular dystrophy .

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. The following factors increase your chance of developing flat feet:


If you experience any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to flat feet. These symptoms can be due to many types of foot problems including ill-fitting shoes. If you suffer from any one of them, see your physician or podiatrist.

  • Pain
  • Calluses or skin redness
  • A stiff foot
  • Weakness or numbness of the foot
  • Rapid wearing out of shoes
  • Worn shoes that lean towards each other
  • Other evidence, such as difficulty running, that indicates the foot is having trouble doing its job


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and will perform a physical exam. If the flat foot is fixed and symptomatic, you will be referred to an orthopedic surgeon for possible surgical correction.

If either of these tests are positive, the flat foot is flexible and unlikely to need treatment:

  • The arch appears when standing on tiptoe
  • The ankle can be flexed at least 15° up from perpendicular to the lower leg


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Physical Therapy, Exercises, and Orthotics

If you have mild symptoms, certain exercises, physical therapy, and shoe inserts may relieve the discomfort. A well-fitting pair of shoes may be all that is needed. Flat feet due to nerve or muscle disease may need special braces.


For rigid flat feet, a surgical procedure can create a satisfactory arch.


To help reduce your chances of getting flat feet, take the following steps:

  • Wear well-fitted shoes with adequate arch support.